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COVID-19 may cause some back-to-school anxiety, psychologist says

Here are some tips from a child psychologist on how to handle school anxiety amid the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The return to school is fast approaching and a number of districts are figuring out what that will look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from online learning, in-person instruction, or a combination of the two — the uncertainty of it all can be stressful and confusing for kids. 

The pressure of dealing with COVID-19 affects 7 out of 10 teens, according to a national Harris survey that was commissioned by the National 4-H Council. Of the teens surveyed, 45% described the stress level as excessive, and 67% believed it was best to keep their feelings about it hidden.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a holistic child psychologist in Grand Rapids, shared some tips for parents when it comes to calming back to school anxiety.

  • Check in with your child frequently and listen to their concerns. Make sure to validate their emotions, letting them know that their concerns and frustrations are understandable.
  • Help your child focus on what they can control in the fight against the pandemic, such as hand washing, wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing.
  • While plans may continue to change, explain to your child what you do know about what the school year or classroom will look like to help them mentally prepare.
  • If your child is going to participate in virtual or remote learning, take steps to set them up for success academically, physically and emotionally. Seek tips to support virtual learning.
  • Whether your child will be returning to school in person or virtually, it is important to ease them back into a structured daily routine and sleep schedule.
  • Help your child adjust to COVID-19 precautions such as wearing a face mask by practicing at home.
  • Send positive or encouraging notes in your child's lunch or backpack.

Buerkens also shared some signs of anxiety that children may exhibit. These signs include:

  • Increased defiance or irritability
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Less energy
  • Physical symptoms like nausea, muscle tension or dizziness
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Sadness or crying

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